Here we go again, Arsenal and Newcastle come face to face in football’s equivalent of Groundhog day and fans will be hoping for a less insipid performance from both in this Premier League clash. The previous Arsenal v Newcastle game, in the FA Cup just 10 days ago, was a dull and tedious affair and both sets of fans will want this one to be a bit more exciting.
The initial goodwill that Steve Bruce experienced when tasked with stabilising Newcastle after Benitez departed has now started to disappear and the manager seems acutely aware that his job may be in doubt if results continue to go against him.
Steve Bruce has been unable to pick his first-choice team due to circumstances beyond his control, but the modern game doesn’t allow for such luxuries as excuses. So we can expect his side will be every bit as durable as the Arsenal v Newcastle FA Cup third-round tie, possibly more so.
With only 8 points between 15th and 19th place and West Brom registering a win at the weekend, Newcastle will scramble for every available point. Arsenal will be hoping that they come good again against the Geordies but after a flat-looking performance against Crystal Palace, fans aren’t as confident as they might have been a week or so ago.
Mikel Arteta will be hoping Gabriel Martinelli is fit to bolster the left side if Kieran Tierney fails to get himself ready before the match. Suddenly, the Scot has assumed even greater importance to the side and a great many noted that an Arsenal without him looked blunt, bland, and uninspiring show, as evident against Palace.
Arteta has more conundrums to solve in defence and midfield, but Smith Rowe and Partey will probably be in the company of Xhaka instead of Ceballos, who has every right to feel aggrieved if he doesn’t make the team. His performance against Palace was one of his better ones but he still wasn’t dominant. After two seasons in the Premier League, you would have thought that the Spaniard would consistently be at another level. Sadly not.
In defence, Arteta has more difficult choices, if Tierney isn’t fit, does he put Saka in the left-back slot instead of Maitland-Niles who simply looked dreadful against the Eagles. That may allow the inclusion of Pepe on the right and Aubameyang in the middle which would be dreadful for Lacazette as the in-form striker.
With Mari being absent, Arteta will have to put Holding alongside Luiz or jettison Luiz in favour of Gabriel who has been Arsenal’s best central defender by far this season. Even his sending off couldn’t dampen the admiration of the Arsenal fans and he is emerging as a favourite rather rapidly.
Tonight’s Arsenal v Newcastle game is far more important to the Gunners than the outcome of their FA Cup tie, there are only 12 points between themselves and Fulham who are third from bottom and their London rivals were certainly unlucky not to add at least a point to their total after the mugging at the hands of Chelsea.
This weekend’s results have now started the battle to avoid the drop and with not much between Arsenal and Newcastle and the bottom three, points are vital. I expect Newcastle to set up the same way, defending in numbers, quick to counter and if they have the likes of Wilson, Saint-Maximin, and Almiron (if fit), then the gunners may have more defending to do.
I expect the Arsenal v Newcastle game could be as tight as their previous encounter and could be decided by one or more errors but don’t right Newcastle off, they could spring a surprise if Arsenal switches off. Once again, I think Arsenal can win this game but it may require patience as well as skill to do so.
Predicted Score: 2-1
Predicted Side: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Smith Rowe; Saka, Aubameyang, Martinelli.
Alternative Side: Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Saka; Partey, Xhaka, Smith Rowe; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.